Warnings/Spoilers/etc: See pt 1

Feedback: Most assuredly! (samwest5@hotmail.com)

C.J. sat at her desk, trying to stifle a chill. Maybe the snowball fight hadn't been such a good idea after all. Not if it meant she'd get sick. Still, she smiled to herself, she *had* kicked Donna's ass. And she would have kicked Sam's had he stayed out there longer.

Life was good. She'd enjoyed a snowball fight outside like a grade school child. She'd just seen Danny Concannon and he'd been relatively friendly – not standoffish like before. Carol said that Sam or no Sam, he was still carrying the torch for her. C.J. hoped he was getting past that. It wasn't good for her ego to think she'd had that sort of effect on Danny. And on top of everything else, someone had surprised her with a tin of coffee – her favourite blend – and the only work she had involved Sam.

Whistling softly, C.J. grabbed the file and left her office. She skipped down the hall, nodding a hello to Carol. The halls were very full. People were running everywhere. C.J. couldn't have been happier. Rush hour in the West Wing was a time she reveled in.

"Hi, C.J.!" Cathy, Sam's assistant, always had a kind word for her. Perhaps it was because in the time he'd been dating C.J., Sam had been considerably less inclined to overwork himself, and thus less inclined to snap at her.

"Hey, Cathy. Your boss in?" C.J. couldn't keep the smile off her face. The day was too damn good.

Cathy checked the calendar sitting on her desk. "Yeah, the meeting should have been over ten minutes ago. He should be back in a sec, if you'd care to wait."

"Sure." C.J. walked into Sam's office and sat down.

It wasn't long before she heard his voice. "Man, she is going to be *so* surprised!"

"Yeah," a female voice, probably Donna, responded. "I honestly don't know how C.J. will take it."

"I think she'll be all right." She heard Sam stop at the doorway to his office and turn the key. "But come in for a minute, and we can work out the details."

To say C.J. was curious would have put it mildly. But she couldn't exactly get out of the office. So she did the next best thing and sat on Sam's couch nonchalantly. She would make her excuses and then wait until he finished whatever he had to do.

Sam jumped a mile and a half! "C.J.!"

She was on her feet in an instant. "Are you okay, Sam?" This didn't look like an ordinary fright. Sam wasn't usually excitable. What had she done?

Sam caught his breath and stilled his pulse beat, at the same time mentally kicking himself. Why the hell had he reacted like that? She hadn't scared him *that* much. Now she knew something was going on.

He had to try to save it. "I'm fine, C.J. You just scared me; I didn't expect anyone to be here."

She didn't buy it; he knew that look. Still, Sam knew that she wouldn't talk about it in front of Donna, who had walked into the office behind Sam. "Fine," C.J. said slowly. Still, she wouldn't let it go completely. "You sure you're okay?"

"Yes. Fine. You can go now, C.J." Sam spoke far too quickly and betrayed far too much nervousness.

It showed. "I'll wait outside." C.J. walked through the door, radiating anxiety as much as Sam.

He closed the door behind her and swore. "I handled that completely wrong, didn't I?"

"Completely," Donna agreed. "Now she knows there's something going on."

"Shit." Sam dropped into his chair. He hadn't made the decision too long ago and already he was experiencing this degree of fear. Maybe this wasn't the right way to go. Maybe he wasn't ready.

"You're ready, Sam; don't doubt yourself." Donna sat down in the chair opposite him. "It's natural to be scared. I would be if I were you."

"Was I talking out loud?" Sam wondered.

"Yeah, you were." Donna flipped open a file. "Now, come on, Sam. We have to finish this. Let's get the gun package stats for Josh so we can both go home before the ice storm hits."

Sam blinked. "What ice storm?"

Donna gave him one of her where-have-you-been looks. "There's supposed to be a gigantic ice storm tonight. One of the worst on record."

"Fabulous," Sam muttered under his breath. To Donna he said, "All right, let me call Joey and get the stats."

As Sam made the call, Donna sat and reflected on her own relationship. Why couldn't *her* boyfriend be more like Sam? Well, not in clumsiness or naivete. She'd had enough of that. But why couldn't Josh know instinctively what she wanted? Sam looked positively adorable, trying to forget his plan to woo C.J. as he struggled to focus on work. She still found it amusing that C.J. had thought *she* had loved Sam, while C.J. had been struggling with her own crush.

She came back to the present as Sam turned on the television. "Let's see what CNN has to say on this."

The two of them stared at the television as the newscast came back from commercial. "Today the White House begins hearings on a proposed gun package. This bill would propose five-day waiting periods and background checks on gun users." Sam nodded. So far, so good.

But then the announcer dropped his bomb. "However, some Washington insiders are saying that this bill may quickly get rougher." The network jumped to a shot of Josh, while the voice-over continued. "A source inside the White House has told this network that the president's senior staff have vowed to press for very strict gun control, especially in the wake of the attempted assassination of President Bartlet and Joshua Lyman, the White House Deputy Chief of Staff."

Sam stared at the TV, while Donna spoke, horror-stricken. "This can't be happening."

Still it went on. "Our same source inside the White House quotes a senior official as saying, 'We won't rest until there's some stricter gun control laws in place. This kind of thing can't happen again. Free expression be damned.'" The announcer continued with what Sam saw as grim triumph. "Needless to say," he persisted, "the Republicans in Congress are crying foul already. In other news ..."

"Shit!" Sam couldn't stop it. Numbly he said, "Who the hell was their source!"

Donna, ever the tranquil one, addressed the situation logically. "Well, who said that, first and foremost?"

"Me." Sam's voice was almost non-existent, even though he elaborated. "It wasn't to a reporter or anything!" He gestured helplessly. "I remember saying it. It was in the hall. I was talking to Josh."

"Fine." Donna mentally eliminated Josh as the leak. He'd worked too hard on this. "Well, who was there when you said it?"

Sam tried to remember. "Um... Well, Josh obviously. Cathy. Carol, she was getting my notes on the Hawkinson memo. Congresswoman Jarrard's aide. Danny Concannon. And Amanda York, the new reporter from the Guardian."

Their eyes lit up at the same moment. "York!" Donna said, with savage triumph.

Sam still entertained doubts. "I don't know, Donna. Danny looks like a pretty good bet right now."

"Sam!" Evidently Donna disagreed. "Danny would never leak about this. He was *there,* for God's sake. York doesn't owe us anything. Danny owes C.J. everything, really."

"True," Sam mused. Truth be told he didn't want to tell Donna about the personal motives clogging his head. Would Danny go so far as to leak something to ruin Sam? According to Carol, Sam was the A-number one on Danny's shit list. And, Sam admitted, for a good reason. But it wasn't his fault, really. C.J. had done the dumping.

Trying to forget those thoughts, Sam progressed to far worse ones. "Um, Donna, let's forget about collating right now, huh? I need you to go tell Josh what's going on." He paled, thinking of his own fate. "I'll go tell Leo."

"All right." Donna turned to go, then faced him again, thinking of something. "Sam, I know this isn't the time, but I have to ask: did you make reservations tonight with C.J.?"

Sam made a gesture of annoyance. "I will as soon as I finish this off." For a moment the old boyish smile was back. "I could never concentrate on that right now."

"I guess not." The two went off to their respective duties.


Too Marvelous for Words - 3




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